Strategic planning can be tricky when it comes to Israel advocacy because we never know when a crisis will arise, placing us in response mode. Having a good strategy that looks long term at the campus environment, should set up students for success when a crisis arises. Recently I visited Michigan State University to meet with Felix, the Israel Fellow, and members of the Team Israel Programming Committee (TIP-C) and assess the strategic plan that we designed at the beginning of the semester. The initial work that the students and staff have done for their strategic plan has enabled TIP-C and Hillel to build new relationships on campus and help them impact campus discourse on Israel.
The plan focuses on three priorities: building the group internally, working with the Jewish Studies Department (JSD), and reaching out to campus leaders. Initial successes are in:
- Alex, the president of the Jewish Student Union, set a goal to reach out to members of the student government and Black Student Alliance. Because of his hard work, the student body president and the programming board president are traveling with him to Israel on The David Project’s Israel Uncovered: Campus Leaders Mission in January. Additionally, Felix, Alex, and the rest of TIP-C have identified the next generation of pro-Israel leaders on campus and are finding ways to train them to take on responsibility within TIP-C and JSU.
- Felix has started reaching out to the Jewish Studies Department. He assists faculty teaching Hebrew classes and he created a system with the department to identify future opportunities to partner on events. Additionally, he is working with faculty members to hire a student to work part-time for the Jewish Studies Department.
- Other Israel student leaders are building partnerships with campus leaders, such as College Democrats, College Republicans, ROTC, and the African Student Union. This relationship-building process will come full circle in the next few weeks as members of TIP-C organize a series of programs with each of the groups.
The above efforts have already seen initial results. The recent Israel Fest, co-sponsored by the Jewish Studies Department and Michigan State Student Programming Board, was attended by more than 500 students, including faculty and student government representatives.
While we don't know what will happen next in Israel and we hope for a peaceful resolution, the steps students have taken at Michigan State are allowing them to use new relationships to explain what is happening to their peers while building out the number of students engaged in dialogue on Israel.